US Embassy awards six Romanian women of courage

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Six Romanian women have been awarded by the US Embassy in Bucharest on Wednesday night for their exceptional courage and leadership spirit in supporting the human rights, equality and social progress. The main honoree of the US Department of State prize was Erika Garnier, a supporter of the people with disabilities.

I am delighted you could all join us tonight to help honor and celebrate six Romanian women who embody compassion, resilience, and, above all else, courage.  While these women come from diverse backgrounds and work in different sectors of society, they are united in their willingness to take on some of the toughest issues facing Romania.  We are grateful for their ongoing efforts and are proud to honor them here tonight.

Yet while we are focusing on these six brave women, this celebration is really about all the women in Romania and around the globe.  The safest, most economically sound and forward thinking countries in the world are those that promote equality and respect for women’s rights,” said the US Ambassador to Romania, Hans Klemm.

According to the American envoy, though still relatively early in her career, Erika Garnier “has become a tireless advocate for one of the most marginalized minorities in Romania and throughout the world: people with disabilities.”

Since 2011, Erika Garnier has worked with Motivation Romania, a NGO that helps people with mobility challenges discover how they can become more active in their personal, social, and professional lives.

She first joined Motivation Romania as a volunteer, serving as an independent living trainer, but her skills were quickly recognized by her manager and she advanced rapidly through the organization, first to Communications Officer and then to Project Manager in April 2014, by coordinating the training for clients and families on how best to use these wheelchairs to achieve freedom of movement and personal independence.

Motivation Romania delivers thousands of wheelchairs to disabled Romanian citizens throughout the country each year.

This past October, Erika has been instrumental in the success of the U.S. Embassy’s Sports Envoy Program, which recently brought two U.S. wheelchair tennis players to Romania for an inspirational event.

Capitalizing on this positive energy, Ms. Garnier has continued to expand Motivation Romania’s wheelchair tennis team, all the while organizing events to raise public awareness about wheelchair sports.

What’s more, she has become an articulate, persuasive speaker, empowering audiences with her message that people with disabilities are, in fact, simply people “with different abilities,” ambassador Klemm concluded.

The American embassy also awarded doctor Magda Ciobanu and Ramona Brad, Managing Partner, Clear Communication Associates for setting up „Romania Breathes” Coalition, a network of over 250 NGOs militating for the smoking ban in public spaces.

The next prizewoman was Ioana Moldovan, freelancer photographer whose career focused on presenting the consequences of the conflicts on people’s lives. Her photos depicted international topics such the Ukraine crisis, Euromaidan revolution or the European refugee crisis.

The US Embassy awarded master sergeant Mirela-Valentina Melinte, the first military with the Romanian Army Forces who joined several fight or humanitarian missions next to a brigade of the US Special Forces.

The sixth honoree is Mădălina Turza, mother of girl with Down syndrome and president of the European Center for the Rights of Children with Disabilities, an NGO pleading for the rights of Romanian disabled children and for their equal access to education.

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